Known for its white sand beaches, destination cruises, and barrels of rum, the Virgin Islands has long been a popular vacation spot for tourists worldwide. Over two million visitors flock there annually for food, shopping, and relaxation. What many of its visitors don’t know is that the islands are deep rooted in a dark history.
St. John, one of the three Virgin Islands was claimed by the Danish West India Company in 1694. The islands became royal Danish colonies in 1754. The new status claimed the Virgin Islands as a slavery trading post, driving the slave trade and sugar planation industry. The Reef Bay Mill is one of the most notorious sugar plantations. The early Danish families lived in the Lameshur House, an 18th century plantation home on the Reef bay.
Making sugar from cane was a labor intensive process. From their early years through death and infirmity, sugar slaves worked in arduous conditions. They worked all hours of the day through scorching heat to the point of exhaustion.
One such victim was Ivan Dalmida. A child slave, Ivan met his tragic death in 1908 after becoming caught in the cog of the sugar cane crusher. Witnesses could only watch in horror as Ivan was mangled and eventually ripped in two by the cog.
After Ivan’s gruesome death, it was reported that the mill machinery never ran right again. Many believed the island was haunted by Ivan and the many other sugar slaves who died on the mill. Despite trying to cover the gruesome death and ongoing mechanical issues, rumors of ghosts made it hard for the mill to find workers.
Even after the mill was closed, the curse was not lifted from the Marsh family. Just a year after Ivan’s untimely demise, the mill’s owner, William Marsh, suffered his own death. His oldest daughter Malvina followed shortly after and was buried near him on the plantation. After William’s death, the last resident of the Reef Bay house was his daughter Anna. Anna was violently murdered in her home and thieves made off with jewelry and trinkets.
The mill laid in ruins until the 1960s when the area was restored to its present condition in the Virgin Islands National Park. Visitors can hike Reef Bay to experience the rich history for themselves. The path takes courageous sightseers to the Reef Bay house where Anna Marsh was murdered, the sugar factory ruins, the grave of William Marsh, and Lameshur Bay. The Chief Ranger of the Virgin Islands now lives in the Lameshur House and shares a spine-chilling encounter with a black woman in his home.
A woman, wearing an all white dress, stood in his home cradling a small child. Although the strange woman was politely greeted, she only glared at the family and hastily left. Concerned, the Ranger asked around the island for information about the unfriendly woman.
Island locals still share eery details about the woman being a ghost and the mother of the young boy killed in the mill. She walks the island silently grieving, accompanied only by the restless souls of the many sugar slaves killed in the plantation mills during bleak days of the Island’s past.